Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law
(Los Angeles, CA)
Title: Executive Director
The Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law (the Center) is the largest independent nonprofit organization exclusively devoted to family law in Southern California. A leader in the State, the Center provides a critical justice safety net for economically impoverished individuals with serious family law and domestic violence problems.
Founded in 1982 by the Black Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles County Bar, and the Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles with a mission to protect victims of domestic violence, improve the welfare of children living in poverty, and assure that people in need have meaningful access to the courts, the original small all-volunteer organization has evolved into an established institution providing comprehensive, no-cost, direct legal assistance for some of the toughest low-income family law cases throughout Los Angeles County. Over the past three years, the Center has aided more than 1,700 individuals. The majority (75 percent) of the Center’s clients are very poor women of color with children. Others are vulnerable older women who need help obtaining an equitable division of property and pensions after long-term marriages to ensure their economic security. Additionally, the number of clients who are among the working poor has increased steadily: in 2022, the average client’s monthly household income was $1,312 for a single-parent household with two children.
Management of the Center has been overseen since 1987 by Betty Nordwind, the Executive Director, who is planning to depart in 2023. The Center has experienced tremendous growth under Ms. Nordwind’s direction, including expanded programs, the addition of legal staff, and moving the Center’s fundraising operations from an event-based program to a more sustainable annual and major gifts model. The annual budget has grown from $160,000 to $2.9 million. The full-time dedicated staff has grown from 2 to 24, and the volunteer program, now renowned in Los Angeles for its expertise and effectiveness, has grown from 35 to 150 volunteer lawyers and law students.
Pro Per (On behalf of oneself)
This trailblazing legal program was the first in California to provide in-depth continuing self-help assistance to very low-income individuals with family law and domestic violence problems and to empower clients to represent themselves in court. Included in this program are: Domestic Violence Assistance: Over 70% of all Center clients report a history of domestic violence, and most are women. The Center provides intensive, ongoing legal assistance to victims, and helps shield their children from harm by obtaining appropriate orders for custody, visitation, and support for their parents; and Family and Mental Health: It is estimated that over 10% of Center clients are parents and individuals who have one or more disabilities and seek help with custody and visitation issues. The Center provides them with legal assistance from advocates who understand the unique challenges that they face in demonstrating their ability to be a parent.
Volunteer and Law Student Development
By investing in a professionally managed, structured program of recruiting, training, and mentoring a large pool of volunteers to help its clients, the Center is a conduit by which attorneys, law students, and other professionals maximize the use of their skills to give back to the community. Volunteer participation leverages and oftentimes doubles the number of hours of free legal assistance available to the Center’s low-income clients.
Pro Bono Panel (Attorneys Provided)
Marshaling the services of private practitioners, the Center offers several thousand hours of free family law representation to clients facing barriers to self-representation because of severe abuse or fear, disability, the complexity of their cases, or other circumstances. It is the only major program of its kind in Los Angeles County and one of the few in California.
Meeting Identified Needs
In addition to its core programs, the Center has offered innovative programs to address unmet community needs and underserved individuals and groups. Some of these efforts include:
- Community College Outreach: For two decades the Center has partnered with some of the Los Angeles area community colleges to provide accessible, free family law and domestic violence legal assistance and education to low-income students most of whom are single parents. The goal is to remove barriers, including housing insecurity, which prevent students from continuing their schooling and pursuing their careers.
- Economic Security for Older Spouses: More recently the Center, together with a legal technology firm specializing in QDROs (qualified domestic relations orders) trained over 90 lawyers and paralegals throughout California in the division of marital pension benefits. These are the first sessions of this kind in the nation and a practice that protects older spouses.
- Family Reunification and Reentry/Incarcerated Women: For many years, the Center’s staff taught classes in child welfare, domestic violence parentage, and child support based on a curriculum they created, at the Los Angeles women’s jail. In addition, the Center has been actively involved with government policymakers and advocates in developing policies and programs reducing female incarceration in Los Angeles and creating a community-based care system.
- Court Access: Throughout the years, the Center has engaged in legislative efforts to improve access to justice for low-income family law litigants, particularly in the area of fee waivers, and has challenged practices in the LA Superior Court that interfere with the rights of its clients.
For more information about the Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law, please visit their website.
The Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law is poised for a new phase of growth and change, emerging stronger from the pandemic with new Board leadership and a knowledgeable, trained, compassionate, and team-oriented staff. The Board of Directors is seeking a well-rounded Executive Director to lead the Center in delivering free family legal services to underrepresented communities in Los Angeles. This individual will support the sustainability and growth of this highly respected and vitally important organization as it meets the ever-increasing demand for its services. This position requires exceptional management skills to ensure the Center's financial stability, purposeful infrastructure growth, program effectiveness, and overall success.
RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE POSITION:
Reporting to the Board of Directors, the Executive Director is responsible for the organization’s consistent achievement of its mission, strategic goals, and fund development/financial objectives, helping to sustain and expand upon the Center’s excellent reputation. The Executive Director supervises and empowers the organization’s leadership team and assists the Board in fulfilling its governance functions, ensuring that the Board, staff, volunteers, and key external stakeholders are working to achieve a common vision and purpose. In addition to providing visionary and inspirational leadership and ensuring the financial health of the organization, the Executive Director leads long-range planning, Board relations, staff development, fund development, external relations, and program planning and oversight. The Executive Director must be a compelling and motivating presence for the Center’s leadership team, staff, Board, and clients, as well as with external stakeholders such as individual donors, institutional funders, and community partners.
Specific duties and responsibilities of the position include, but are not limited to:
Program Strategy & Leadership
- Provide effective management and team-building support to directors and managers to ensure that the Center’s programs meet the operational and shared strategic goals of the organization.
- Work with staff and Board to assess current services and programs and provide thought leadership to continuously improve the delivery of legal services and new programs.
- Devise and implement the annual development plan and effective strategies to ensure growth in organizational fundraising and increased financial sustainability.
- Provide thought leadership and support to build and enhance a diverse range of funding sources.
- Leverage contacts and resources to expand the donor/resource base.
- Participate in the year-round identification, cultivation, and solicitation of major donors through meaningful and individualized contact.
Management & Staff Development
- Strengthen effective organizational structure and work closely with senior leadership to attract, hire, and retain diverse and talented staff.
- Help to create and foster an equitable, diverse, and inclusive work environment with a positive and supportive team culture that values collaboration, cohesion, staff well-being, transparent communication, integrity, ethics, and values.
Financial Oversight & Administration
- Maintain primary accountability for the financial position of the organization including overseeing fiscal management and the development of budgets to ensure the financial integrity and viability of the organization; monitoring appropriate financial compliance, reporting, and auditing; providing the appropriate control and accountability of all funds, physical assets, and other property.
- Devise and implement effective strategies for financial stability and growth.
- Oversee operations, including human resources, facilities, technology, equipment, and risk management.
- Facilitate and promote timely Board communication, including reporting on the organization’s operations, fiscal health, and strategic and operational issues.
- Support the Board in fulfilling its governance function.
- Promote an environment that is conducive to transparency, good governance, and productive Board work.
- Work with Board Nominations Committee to identify Board candidates to further diversify Board membership and expand the Board’s collective commitment to meeting the needs of the community.
External Relations & Communications
- Ensure that the Center is consistently presented with a strong, positive image by serving as a spokesperson for the organization, clearly articulating its mission, vision, programs, services, and impact on the community.
- Cultivate and maintain strong relationships with other community organizations and key constituent groups, as well as with government and political leaders through both direct contact and collaborative partnerships.
TRAITS AND CHARACTERISTICS DESIRED:
The successful candidate will:
- Be a decisive yet collaborative leader with exceptional interpersonal and listening skills.
- Demonstrate a personal passion for the Center’s mission and uphold the highest standards of professionalism and integrity.
- Possess excellent communication skills, connecting with diverse audiences internally and externally.
- Inspire and mentor teams, combining a strategic perspective with effective execution of day-to-day activities.
- Foster collaboration, trust, and transparent communication through an empowering leadership style.
- Demonstrate critical thinking, financial acumen, organizational skills, and logical priority-setting abilities.
- Be known for honesty, trustworthiness, emotional intelligence, compassion, humility, strong ethics, and fairness.
- Exhibit deep passion for the Center’s work and effectively communicate its vision and impact.
CAREER PATH LEADING TO THIS POSITION:
Competitive candidates will demonstrate:
- Senior leadership experience in a legal services or nonprofit organization dedicated to exemplary service to the community.
- Success in generating support for an organization through collaborative efforts with internal and external stakeholders.
- Proven ability to build and motivate high-performing teams, drive programmatic excellence, and enhance an organization’s impact and financial sustainability.
- An understanding of forward-looking nonprofit fiscal management, including budgeting and cash flow analysis.
- The ability to oversee, inspire, and collaborate with staff and articulated management philosophy which supports a positive team culture and well-being of staff, high performance, and employee retention.
- Exceptional communication skills, including public speaking, writing, and forming community partnerships.
The annual salary range for this role is $150,000-$165,000 plus benefits.
Staff are currently working on a hybrid in-person / work-from-home schedule. The Executive Director is expected to have a regular presence in the office and be available for frequent in-person meetings with staff, Board members, donors, and community members.
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